The Tempest at Station Theatre, Hayling Island, review: ‘Clever, inventive theatre and well worth a visit’

The Tempest by Southsea Shakespeare Actors is at Station Theatre, Hayling Island, November 7-10, 2018
The Tempest by Southsea Shakespeare Actors is at Station Theatre, Hayling Island, November 7-10, 2018

Aaron Holdaway is a name that is, most likely, known to supporters of local theatre as an actor, well-versed in comedy roles.

He’s now crossed the great artistic divide and is directing his first show, in this case, the Southsea Shakespeare Actors’ latest, The Tempest.

And I think he can consider his first directorial venture a success.

Generally believed to be Shakespeare’s last play, the text is simultaneously dense and rich, airy and earthy and you need an able cast to pull it off.

So it’s a good job that’s exactly what Holdaway has.

Gender-swapping the protagonist gives Sarah Ash the chance to shine as Prospera, a duchess robbed of position, power and determined on revenge. Ash is master of the iambic pentameter and nicely underplays. That gender-swap makes for an interesting angle on Prospera’s relationship to her daughter, too.

There’s excellent work from young Susie Rowland as Ariel. Her command of the language and excellent singing voice bode well for her acting future. As Ferdinand and Miranda, Ethan Emery and Ciara Ayre also show understanding but need to be wary of unnecessary movement.

Lee Backhouse is particularly impressive as Trinculo. Shakespeare’s comic parts are notoriously un-funny to a modern audience, but Backhouse isn’t afraid to play with the words and create silences to make the comedy work for him. Stuart Williams makes a wonderfully vacillating Caliban, too.

Played on an interesting multi-level set with effective use of back-projection and sound, this is clever, inventive theatre and well worth a visit.